Jonathan Hickman’s Omega-Level Explanation Of Canon Should Change How You Read Comics

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Summary

  • Jonathan Hickman revolutionized
    X-Men
    storytelling, redefining the franchise through his
    House of X/Powers of X
    miniseries, which established a complex narrative that has lead to five years worth of rich, dramatic storytelling.
  • Hickman’s understanding of canon emphasizes that continuity is not simply the accumulation of published material, but rather what endures, what ”
    sticks
    ” with readers and future writers.
  • As Hickman describes it, Marvel’s ”
    sixty years of contradiction
    s” in its ongoing comic book storytelling provide an arena of ideas, where the most engaging and exciting stories assert themselves – a perspective that should prompt Marvel fans to reconsider their own views on continuity.


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Few contemporary comic book writers could be more comfortably described as an authority on continuity than Jonathan Hickman, who not only rebooted, but revolutionized X-Men storytelling with his 2019 House of X/Powers of X intertwining miniseries. In an interview, Hickman once gave a gamechanging explanation of what truly makes something canon.


Appearing on the CEREBRO podcast, Hickman discussed how writers actually forge a coherent canon out of “sixty years of contradictions in the Marvel Universe.” Rather than the accrual, or sum total, of everything that is published by Marvel, “continuity is what people remember, and what sticks.”



By this definition, the discrepancies inherent in comic book storytelling are not abrasions that need to be smoothed out, but instead, the process of the best possible story shaping itself over years, through successive creators.


Related
X-Men Meets Memento: New HoX/PoX Chronological Edition Ushers in Krakoa’s Final Act

As the X-Men’s Krakoan era ends, Marvel has released a chronological edition of the House of X and Powers of X miniseries that started it all.

Hickman’s ambitious [creative] style makes sense in the context of his understanding of how canon is formed, which is delivering things that ”
stick
,” for readers and future writers alike.


Jonathan Hickman Put The X-Men On The Map, After Their “Lost Decade”

page from House of X #2, depicting successive eras of X-Men


Jonathan Hickman took the helm of XMen at a time when Marvel’s mutants had not been a priority for the publisher for several years – a period he obliquely references in the text of Powers of X #2 as “the lost decade” – and immediately changed that. House of X/Powers of X radically redefined the X-franchise, inaugurating the Krakoan Era, half-a-decade worth of storytelling that is only just now coming to its sweeping conclusion. Hickman’s vision for the series proved critically and commercially successful, as it wove a complex narrative involving space-time, the multiverse, and the many lives of Moira MacTaggert.


Hickman took Moira, previously one of X-Men’s prominent human characters, and reinvented her as the most pivotal mutant in franchise history. He established Krakoa, a flourishing mutant society like none ever seen before, and introduced the Resurrection Protocols, altering mutantkind’s relationship with death itself. Even if everything he tried to do during his X-tenure wasn’t a success, his consistent determination to take the wildest possible creative swing proved thrilling from start to finish. Hickman’s ambitious style makes sense in the context of his understanding of how canon is formed, which is delivering things that “stick,” for readers and future writers alike.

[Jonathan Hickman’s] understanding of canon, which makes readers as essential to the formation of the story as writers, should prompt Marvel fans to reconsider their own approaches to continuity.

Hickman’s Understanding Of Canon Is A Profound Insight

Powers of X #2, Moira tells Xavier:


As Hickman said during his appearance on CEREBRO:


I try to explain this to the writers, about continuity, and how it works. Newer writers think they write something in a comic book, and that comic book gets drawn, and then printed, and shipped, and published, and all that…and they think that they’ve done something that’s become canon. That’s not how any of this works.


Instead, Hickman explained, canon is about the creative ideas that endure. This applies to ideas that endear themselves to fans, and become “head-canon,” even if the official canon is resistant – such as mutant Nightcrawler’s true parentage, which was recently finally canonized by Marvel. It also applies to ideas that future writers choose to explore further, such as Alex Ewing is doing in his current Immortal Thor run, by recontextualizing and rewriting a Thor tale from the 1970s.


In this sense, Marvel’s “sixty years of contradictions,” are a glorious arena of ideas, where the most exciting, most engaging stories assert themselves. At points during his podcast appearance, Hickman also noted that the strength of his approach also came from mining as much material from existing X-Men lore as possible. Jonathan Hickman’s comments on continuity in comic book storytelling are rich, and insightful. The X-Men writer’s understanding of canon, which makes readers as essential to the formation of the story as writers, should prompt Marvel fans to reconsider their own approaches to continuity.


Source: CEREBRO

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